THE GREATEST CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY OF THEM ALL
THE MAFIA IN CANADA PART FIVE
The turnover of the gambling industry in Canada is close to two billion dollars a year. The ultimate proprietor is the Mafia. This is a city-by-city report on these men and their extraordinary methods
Charlie speaking. Seventeen. What’s the bottom? Hold it .. . One-two-twenty. Oar way. Ran me down. Leafs favorite one and a half. Chicago one. Give me Leafs for a small one.
The Leafs for a small one. Yoa got it. Good lack, seventeen.
“Seventeen’’ is a customer of America’s biggest business. A code number hides his identity; this business is illegal. In its jargon “the bottom’’ is his account; he owes $1,220. “A small one” is one hundred dollars, his bet for the week on hockey. He is betting, he thinks, with Charlie, his local bookmaker. In reality he and hundreds of thousands of other Canadian bettors are dealing with the Cosa Nostra or Mafia.
This underworld federation is first and foremost a gambling cartel, a monopoly so well-concealed that some policemen refuse it credence. Gamblers call it The Combination. Through a network of affiliates, a small bettor in Saskatchewan can bet on a fight in Sweden, a dog race in Florida, or a horse running on any track in America.
From office buildings, factories, beer parlors, hotels, hospitals, barracks, the dollars flood in; the investment capital of the underworld. It bankrolls gunrunning in the Caribbean, illegal stills, counterfeit plants. At a frightening rate
it is financing stock promotions and business takeovers, giving racketeers social status and political influence. It enables them to seduce wellconnected lawyers with huge fees, lawyers who in turn seduce the law. Gambling gives gang lords enormous sums for bribery; one ex-policeman in Montreal is nearly a millionaire. In alliance with politicians the Montreal Mafia by 1960 had completely corrupted police in the province and city. Corruption in Ontario was well advanced two years ago when publicity caused the Mafia to draw back. Gambling controlled by the underworld is a fount of corruption in Canada, probably our gravest social problem.
Every class contributes: from the working man who bets fifty cents to the businessman who bets twenty thousand dollars on one game; in one year a Toronto businessman lost a quarter of a million dollars. There are. lamentably, no Canadian statistics, but the American Academy of Political and Social Science claims that fifty million Americans gamble regularly — on horses, cards, dice, casino games, lotteries of one kind or another, bingo and slot machines. Gamblers Anonymous, a coast-to-coast organization modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, believes there are some six million compulsive gamblers. These are the hard core, the addicts known to gamblers as “degenerates,” men like Leo Finnegan (The Mad Russian) of Windsor, who gambled away his car, his airplane, and fifty percent of a business that is worth today some three million dollars.
No one knows how much money they take from the public. The 1961 report on gambling in New York state, figuring from actual records seized from one hundred bookmakers, estimated a yearly volume or “handle” of half a billion dollars for an area of five million people. By this yardstick Canadian bets with bookies could total 1.8 billion dollars, but a survey of the volumes of the biggest Canadian bookies suggests that the handle is closer to nine hundred million dollars.
The bookmaker’s profit is guaranteed by the odds set on each horse, first by a professional handicapper, then by the bets at the track, where the pari-mutuel machines divide the losses among the winners — after taking some fifteen percent for expenses and taxes “off the top.” The bookmaker keeps this fifteen percent. This is his edge, his "vigorish,” his gross profit. And this is the actual loss to the public in Canada every year: from one hundred to two hundred million dollars.
From this the Mafia siphons off, at best guess, ten percent. It takes its cut directly in Ontario and Quebec, indirectly from Manitoba west; western cities have Mafia contacts but no Mafia organizations. The independence of western bookies, however, is largely illusory. They are as dependent as the eastern combines on three services: the racewire. the line and the layoff. It is through these that the Mafia dons who run the big-city syndicates control and operate their secret monopoly.
NEWS is THE LIFEBLOOD of horse betting and the racewires are its arteries. News is teletyped off North American tracks by Triangle Publications, a legal monopoly that supplies Associated Press and UPI, with the understanding that they will not resell to bookies or illegal racewires. They in turn supply newspapers, TV and radio stations. Triangle also feeds its affiliated papers The Daily Racing Form, The Morning Telegraph and the Winnipeg Morning Digest, and the firm of Armstrong Daily, which sells its racing sheet in ten cities. All these media list the horses, jockeys, odds and track conditions from which the bettors make their selections. “If the local newspapers dropped their racing pages when the local tracks
closed down,” a detective says, “illegal betting would drop fifty percent.”
The legal wire serves the newspapers; an illegal counterpart serves the bookies. It is a venerable institution, this undercover wire service, founded in 1910 by Mont Tennes, a Chicago multimillionaire, successively owned by Moe Annenberg, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jim Ragen, whom the Mafia murdered in 1946, Edward McBride, a Cleveland taxicab magnate who once owned the Cleveland Browns, and his brother-inlaw, Tom Kelly, Kelly’s brother, George, and Tom Kelly Jr.
The Kellys control the racewire today through Illinois Sports News, a Chicago firm. With nine printing presses and six linotypes it purports to be solely a publisher. In fact it collects news from the tracks and feeds it to bookies and similar “news companies,” who form a federated continental network. Its Boston outlet, Sportsday Weekly, was set up by Frank Ferrara. In 1958 Ferrara was jailed for trafficking in bonds stolen from banks by the Montreal Mafia-led syndicate. Exbookmaker Angelo “Munge” Rossetti has taken over Sportsday. In 1961 he was servicing Montreal, phoning in fast results from east-coast tracks.
The results are stolen by teams of racewire reporters or “peek operators.” They try to find rooms overlooking the pari-mutuel boards at the tracks and one operator watches through binoculars while another handles the phone. Often a "pitcher” signals from inside the track to his “catcher” watching from outside. They hire cabdrivers to run off the track to their cabs after a race and pass along results on their radio-telephone. They hide microphones near announcers. They conceal sending sets under clothes and they signal results out in code. Several times the Mafia has hired electronic technicians to build signal units to feed an off-track telephone automatically. An Illinois Sports News executive has approached Infrared Industries of Waltham, Mass., about using infra-red rays, invisible light beams that transmit the human voice more than two hundred yards and cannot be monitored. One “peek operation." the Delaware Sports Service, can beat the official legal racewire by fourteen minutes.
Delaware is connected to Sportsday Weekly of Boston, Mass., and Sportsday, the U. S. Senate crime committee was told, was backed by the Boston Mafia chief. Ray Patriarcha, and the Kellys. The crime committee questioned the Kellys in 1961 on their secret ties with Chicago’s Mafia leaders. All took the fifth amendment to avoid incriminating themselves. One of their sub-distributors. a racewire operator who was paying their wire service three hundred dollars a week, was asked to testify. He was warned by phone: “You'll be a dead man if you don’t take the fifth.”
But the racewire is no longer a monolithic monopoly. New U. S. laws against sending gambling information over state lines have knocked big gaps in the network, and the Kellys now fight a conviction for shipping their main publication, the Green Sheet, to bookmakers.
The syndicate in Chicago is now testing automation. Green Sheet readers, by giving a code word published daily, can call Telephone News Systems, Inc., and hear the results by recorded announcement. The record is changed as fast as results come over the UPI ticker tapes. The company has sixty telephone lines feeding into its answering device leased from the Illinois Bell Telephone Company. In a twenty-four-hour day
it gets forty to fifty thousand calls. Its sole income is six hundred dollars a week from Illinois Sports News.
A year ago Telephone News Systems’ phones were seized by the justice department. The company got an injunction and the phones were reinstalled. The case will now be decided by the federal courts. In the meantime Toronto bookies are dialing Chicago.
“THE LINE” is the odds that give the bookie his vigorish on non-racing sports bets, ensuring his profit no matter which team wins. A line of “Ottawa eight” for an Ottawa-Edmonton football game means that Ottawa must win by eight points or more or its backers lose. It is the score, not the game, that counts, and the odds always favor the bookie. If the bookies figure the teams are even, the odds will be “six-five, pick-em.” A bettor picking either team must wager six dollars to win five.
Sports betting in the last few years has cut deeply into horse betting. It is not only simpler but safer. The bookie does not need a clandestine wire service for results. He can pick up any game with a shortwave radio. All he needs is the line or the information on which to figure his own.
Each Monday during the baseball, football or basketball season, professional handicappcrs mail out weekly schedules of games and the starting odds, which are called “the early line.” For twenty-five dollars a week or so their clients can telephone anytime for the “midweek line” and the pregame “late line.” Bookies call in by code number and those who do not subscribe usually check their lines with bookmakers who do.
In the U. S., the new antigambling laws have handicapped the handicappcrs. Athletic Publications, which put out the famed “Minneapolis line,” now has hunting and fishing books on its presses. The important price-making firm is now in Chicago: Angel-Kaplan. Its employees cull the nation’s sports pages, they check every college sports release. A network of scouts feeds them inside information. Many sports writers and bookies scout for the handicapping firms. In 1962, when the Vancouver Lions were in Montreal, the football players entering the stadium had to push through more than a hundred men holding lineups and making notes.
“I was shocked, even scared a bit,” Dave Skrien, the head coach, said later. “They looked like bookies at a racetrack. They studied each player coming out. You could tell they were checking for injuries and checking who was dressed .. . We actually had to push some out of the way to warm up.”
Angel-Kaplan was founded thirty years ago by Bill Kaplan, a character as colorful as his pseudonyms, Pigskin Pete, Coach Goldberg, and Patrick K. Gilhooly. He called it Bill Kaplan’s Football Service until 1957. That year a hoodlum tried to muscle in. Kaplan sought protection from Gus Alex, gambling boss of Chicago’s First Ward and a ranking syndicate leader. Alex put Don Angelini into the firm. Therafter it has been known as Angel-Kaplan.
In the summer of 1962, with enforcement of
the new laws, Angelini said he intended to quit. “We’re just going to stick around for the World Series to make a price for some guys ... It doesn’t pay us to operate locally,” he said. He was still making prices last w'inter, phoning daily to Toronto, where Benjamin “Curly” Leitman, one-time armed robber and bail bondsman, proprietor until 1962 of the Atlas Club, a notorious criminal hangout and bookmaking centre, has been setting the line for the continent’s hockey bettors.
Angel-Kaplan, in fact, have not quit yet. They operate from a telephone-answering service. Its legality will no doubt hinge on the case against Telephone News Systems.
AS LONG AS THE BOOKMAKER’S BETS are fairly evenly distributed among the horses in a race or the teams in a game, the odds in his favor guarantee his profit. So, faced with the risk of heavy bets on one horse or team, he hedges, by passing some along — “laying off” — with another bookmaker. He calls it “spreading the action” or “balancing the book.” “If there’s any chance of losing," he says, “it isn't bookmaking, it’s gambling.”
The layoff is the bookmaker’s insurance. Small books lay off with bigger books and these lay off to the Big Book, the regional layoff. Regional books lay off with each other, but the play is often too heavy, too risky; they cannot effect a balance, and they move up another rung to the highest level, the syndicate layoffs who form The Combination, the bookmaker's bookmakers.
These layoff men assign their clients a code number. “This code number,” says Harold Wallace of the U. S. Internal Revenue Service, “is known to individuals all over the country, which denotes organization.”
In 1959 a wiretap in upper New York state caught a bookie in Falconer calling his layoff in Covington, Ky. “This is 313,” he said. “I want to change that code because somebody overheard me use that number.”
“You just can’t change to a new number like that,” said his layoff contact. “You have to have it changed in the office.”
The layoff men work from syndicate-controlled areas: in the early to mid-Fifties, Montreal; in the late Fifties, Terre Haute, New Orleans, Buffalo, Boston, Newport, Biloxi. The layoffs share the risk and assure a profit. If their book is still unbalanced, if their risk on one horse is still high, they have another hedge; they can bet on the dangerous horse at the track, thus bringing down the odds and their payoff. Everyone who has been to the races has noted these last-minute fluctuations, resulting from what is knowm as “comeback money.”
The layoff men may have agents handling the comeback on a circuit or they may have reciprocal deals with allied syndicates. When Norman “Nemo” Joseph, layoff man for the Buffalo syndicate, was operating in 1960 in Hamilton, he was called by a man from a track in New York state. “Do you want anything here?” said the caller, referring to comeback money. Last summer a syndicate combine in Toronto, under orders from the syndicate layoff in Buffalo, was dumping up to forty thousand dollars of comeback money
into the betting machines at Toronto tracks. "The tracks invariably know when it is the syndicate that is buying,” says Jacob Grumet, a N.Y. state crime commissioner, “but they don't care because it increases their take.”
The No. 1 layoff man today is Gil Beckley, who worked out of Montreal when the syndicate took over in the mid-Fifties. He now operates from four pay phones in his motel at Surfside, Fla., a chunky, well-dressed, cigar-smoking, fastmoving prototype of a tycoon. He calls frequently, sometimes daily, to gamblers in Vancouver and Calgary, occasionally to Toronto and Montreal. He is in constant contact with the other top layoff men, Barney Levine of Little Rock, Maurice "Red“ Dodson of Las Vegas, and Frank “Lefty Rosenthal, a Chicago syndicate layoff who also runs Multiple Sports News Service, a Florida handicapping firm.
The handicappers want bookmakers and gamblers to believe that their line is based on an honest, expert appraisal of team merit. But the odds that shift, often inexplicably, during the week are set, not by the handicappers, but by the layoffs. The handicappers check every day with the syndicate layoff men to find out the flow of money bet on each team. Money, not merit, usually sets the line after Monday, and it is set to protect the profit margin of the cartel.
THE LAYOFF, THE LINE, THE WIRE SERVICE: these enable the Mafia-led syndicates to stabilize, by remote control, a gigantic industry. Some bookies have been in business all their lives and their fathers before them. Now and then they pay a fine, which amounts to less than a licence fee. Now and then the public awakens to the menace of organized crime and supports the police in antigambling campaigns.
We are in such a period now'. Police morale and performance is high. Bookmaking volume and profits arc low'. But the bookmakers will survive. From Montreal to Vancouver they are testing new techniques that presage an upsurge in business. Here is a province-by-province report.
SMALL BOOKMAKERS in Montreal are going the way of small merchants. Bookies are forming combines, bookmaking rings. There are six or seven combines in the metropolitan area. They are using what is called the “relay system.”
Their runners work out of taverns, pool halls and night clubs. The runners no longer take money openly: they give customers coded accounts. They no longer write bets in a handbook: they memorize three to six bets, then call them in from a pay phone—but not to the bookmaker. The bookie has borrowed the drug trafficker's technique of insulating himself with a "front end“ who relays the bets to the man who actually makes the book — the “back end.” He is not always head of the local group now, more often a top employee. At day’s end he supplies a statement to all the bookies in the ring so that they don’t have 10 keep betting slips — the evidence police seek. The back end moves often and secretly.
It was only three years ago that Montreal bookmakers had locations. They worked in comfort in “social clubs,” in “horse rooms” w'here bettors
listened to loudspeakers broadcasting events at the track. The underworld literally dictated to the police. One day a policeman named Steve Olynyck arrested a gambler’s lookouts. Next day a gambler called Olynvck's boss, Inspector Leo Lequin. saying: Tell that bastard Olynyck he's being trans-
ferred tomorrow.’ The transfer came through on schedule. Lequin was helpless. As secretary to racket-busting lawyer-policeman Pax Plante he had helped clean up Montreal in the middle Fifties. Now he himself was asked to “be smart,” to "play ball.” He refused, was broken to lieutenant and sent to St. Helen's Island to protect a large number of squirrels and one resident.
The reformer, Jean Drapeau, came back as mayor in late 1960. He appointed a new director of police, J. Adrien Robert. Robert chose "the two pasture kids,” Lequin and Olynyck, to spearhead his new S.S. (Social Security) Squad. They made a battering ram from an oak log, shrugged off underworld threats, and worked long into the night every day for four months: they have probably broken down more doors than any two men in Canada. At the end of their 104th raid Lequin was hospitalized for exhaustion.
Bookmakers fled to the outskirts, out of Montreal’s jurisdiction. The S.S. Squad followed, teaming up with Quebec's provincial police, newly reorganized under an ex-RCMP deputy commissioner, Joscphat Brunet. Under this pressure new' methods evolved.
Eugene Mondello, a big east-end bookie, operated as the Beauchamps Banana Corporation. He worked behind a series of sound-proofed doors heavily bolted to delay raiders. His phones were in the basement beside a lighted Quebec burner. When the S.S. Squad reached his desk he had no records. "For twenty-five years I've been making book," he said. “You're not smart enough to pinch me.” Lequin and Olynyck tenderly took the ashes from his burner and with their laboratory's help got a conviction.
Sam Harris w'rote his bets w'ith a white w'ax pencil on black arborite. Beside him he kept a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some tissue. When police broke in he dissolved and rubbed out his records. Olynyck noted the alcohol, raided again, and switched bottles unnoticed. On his third raid he found Harris rubbing desperately. “It won’t come off,” he said unbelievingly. "1 know',” said Olynyck. “It’s w'ater.”
Gordon Collins' Montreal combine grosses three million dollars a year in sports bets. He has used two apartments linked by a phone extension. Bets taken in one apartment were recorded in another. When raided a lew' months ago Collins was using an upstairs room with mirrors rigged on the staircase to show w'ho came in. A lookout stood by a warning buzzer. The bookmaker smoked a cigar. He was writing his bets on chemically treated “flash paper.” When touched with a glowing cigar end it disappears in a puff of smoke.
Montreal bookies for years got w'ire service from 10 Ontario Street West where a master control fed race information into a battery of phones supplying some forty-six bookies. Then, until late 1961, the Peel Publishing Company leased a ticker tape from the British United Press. Peel published Sports News, which claims to be a sports paper but w'hich police maintain is a scratch sheet (so-called because it lists the “scratches,” the horses withdrawn from the race); the case is now' in appeal court. At present The Morning Telegraph, a seventy-five-ccnt racing sheet, comes
in from New York every day. For a time last year the wire service came from Toronto. Nowthe combines are probably tapping the legal wire.
Montreal is a layoff centre for Ottawa-Hull and upper New' York state, where syndicated crime is controlled by Stefano Magaddino, one of the Matias twelve national directors. In I960. Joseph Vizzi. a leading Buffalo bookie, was relaying bets from AI Mones in Miami, one of the biggest U. S. bookies, for layoff in Montreal.
1 he combines select one man to handle the layoff. It w'as formerly Harry Ship, one of the world's best-known gamblers. But Ship, it is rumored, tried to escape from syndicate control and in autumn, 1962, was shot in both legs as a warning: his income has fallen off, and he recently sold his expensive house. The layoff man is now Soby Garner, alias Hemmings. Several months ago he was grossing fifty thousand dollars a day and there is no reason to think that this is exceptional. On a 1962 raid his filing cabinet had sixty cubby holes, one for every race at six or more tracks, and each one full. He had an electric adding machine on w hich the police began to total his bets. At seventy-five thousand dollars the machine exploded and broke dowm. The police had only added three quarters of the day’s take. At that rate his yearly handle would be thirty million dollars. And he w'ouid only be handling the combines' overload.
The combines and bookmakers pay off to a syndicate collector, the manager of a clothing store w'here the gambling bosses once met. The syndicate's gambling income now is somewhere near rock bottom, but if police pressure slackens it could soar.
BOOKMAKERS have gone underground. Harassed in outlying districts by the Ontario Provincial Police and by city police in Hamilton and Toronto the cigar-store and pool-room handbook is vanishing. But the bookmakers’ runners still phone in bets from big offices. They still make the rounds ot the noon-hour crowds in beer parlors and lounges. A stranger can still place a bet but someone must vouch for him. “If you don't know him,” says the bookie, “he's a policeman.”
To the bettor the bookie says, “Don't call me, I II call you." Red LaBarr, the Hamilton syndicate’s popular front man, calls his regular clients three times a day. He is so busy at times that an answering service tells bettors that Mr. LaBarr will call back. Toronto's big west-end and centretown combine, Ernest Midgley and Jackie Riggs, are grossing-ten million dollars a year at least. In both cities bets are relayed to the suburbs, where back ends may write on pads which erase when lifted. Back-end clerks as yet unknown to police arc hired: often they're women. “A magistrate doesn't like to send women to jail,” says a policeman.
The syndicate has been tightening its control in Toronto. Its former employees appear in other combines, no doubt as watchdogs. Some of the best-knowm bookmakers of the Fifties are being squeezed out. One of the biggest — he netted a quarter ot a million dollars a couple of years ago on sports bets — has been reduced to taking bets on the street. Another has quit and is in the
scrap-metal business. A third is in the stock market. A fourth, once big, applied for a gun permit and has opened up retail stores in Sudbury and North Bay, the only two northern Ontario cities east of the Lakehcad with bookmakers. When one would-be free-enterpriser said that he wanted to get in the business, a friend, a bookie, asked, “Have you got permission?”
The line (the odds) on sports events, which for years came from Minneapolis, now comes into Ontario from Angcl-Kaplan, Chicago. Race information — scratches, odds, off-time and results — comes from various sources: Chicago; Boston through Buffalo; via short wave from radio stations, especially Windsor stations. Most bookies raided in recent years have had short-wave sets.
There is no lack of racing news. Hamilton has the Doily Sporting News. Niagara Falls the Armstrong Daily, published in Buffalo. In Toronto The Morning Telegraph comes in overnight from New York, and the Daily Racing Form is published locally. But as one policeman says, “We don't always find a racing form now with the bookie. That would incriminate him. We find the Globe and Mad. Why not? It has all the information from the major tracks in America.”
Toronto, like Montreal, is a layoff centre. In I960 a counsel for the New York state commission said that one Buffalo combine in just two weeks of play lost one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in Toronto. “That same Canadian operation,” he said, “realized a profit of five hundred thousand dollars on two months of baseball play.” The profit on this kind of action would at most be five percent, which suggests a volume of five million dollars a month. The overload from such northern cities as Sudbury and North Bay, each with one bookie, flows into Toronto. Niagara Falls, with six bookies under U. S. control, and Guelph, another syndicate city, with two or three bookies, are regional layoff points. Hamilton lays off in Guelph and Toronto. Toronto lays off in Montreal and Buffalo; they operate so closely that a layoff man in Toronto may have signed blank cheques from one in Montreal. Like a river with many branches the layoff system channels the cash flow of even the smallest Ontario bookies into the cartel’s coffers.
In Toronto, as in Montreal, one group may be handling the layoff. In March of 1961 a raid of a home in the suburbs uncovered telephone calls to such centres of bookmaking as Chicago, Cleveland, Covington, Ky., and Miami, as well as to Buffalo, Montreal, Guelph and Hamilton. The monthly phone bill was thirteen hundred dollars and the daily bets indicated a volume of nineteen million dollars a year. The bookies themselves, Reuben Stein and a Preston hotel owner, Sam Band, were not that big. Stein was in the former Acme Social Club in Toronto with Sammy “Slow” Stein. It was Slow who learned that New York’s state and Ontario’s provincial police were planning the raids that prefaced the 1960 New York hearings. He immediately tipped off Anthony Marrinelli of Buffalo, a partner of Nemo Joseph of Lewiston, N.Y., layoff man for the Niagara Falls-Buffalo syndicate.
Joseph escaped the police net and moved to Hamilton, taking a room in the Alexander Motel outside the city. He took no individual bets. All his business — at least eight million dollars a year — came from bookmakers, mainly American. Some indication of his status was apparent at his arrest. He had working for him Mike
Genessee, alias Genovese, assistant of a local Mafia don, the late Tony Sylvestro. Genessee insisted on taking the blame and was jailed two months. Joseph, who had moved to Toronto, failed to appear. His lawyer pleaded his guilt and Joseph was fined two thousand dollars, made easier by the return to him of $2,372 seized by police upon his arrest. Seven months later he was arrested in Toronto. He ran from the courtroom, was caught, convicted, appealed, and was freed on bail. He jumped his ten-thousand-dollar bond and is now back in New York state.
There are other indications that Stefano Magaddino, Mafia overlord of upper New York state, has extended his territory into Ontario. Sam Rich, a fairly big Buffalo bookie, worked from a Toronto hotel, calling contacts as far as Florida, while the probe in New York was on. And it is, of course, impossible for an outside book to start up without the locals knowing; a tip to police would close it within a week. Another Buffalo bookie made his home in Crystal Beach, charging his L1. S. calls to his home in Canada.
Last year a member of the central Mafia-controlled ring in Toronto which, like the ring in Hamilton, combines loan sharking and betting, was overheard phoning a bookie in Montreal. “I've just called the office,” he said. He had just called Buffalo.
A CLEANUP CAMPAIGN has reduced Winnipeg bookmakers to about twelve, and these are leaving the downtown area like rats deserting a ship. Over the past three years more than a dozen “for let” and “for sale” signs have hung in the vacant windows of news and tobacco and shoeshine shops.
But big sports bets are still being made. Runners are still active, phoning in bets from the CNR shops, department stores, the RCAF station. They belong to two main groups: Walter Gach and David Schultz of the now-defunct Northern News and Shoeshine, and Abe Forzley whose Boston Hat Works is the last open downtown front. A third group, once the biggest, David Johns and William Holub, now considered inactive, may be backing them financially. All operate discreetly. They live respectable middle-class lives. They do not party or drive expensive cars. Except for winter holidays in Florida they do not display what the underworld calls “flash,” though most arc well-off. Forzley owns a farm. Holub, the fortunate possessor of a photographic memory that can conjure up the scores on games long past, owns a bowling alley. All have other bookies working with them, and all are linked. Holub and Gach are associates, and Johns frequents Forzley's shop.
The layoff for Manitoba bookies was once Toronto, but is now chiefly Vancouver and Calgary. The racing news used to come from Toronto, the line (sports) from Minneapolis, but during Ontario's crime hearings in 1962 a Winnipeg bookie commented: “The heat in the east has knocked out the wire. We don't want those eastern hoods here anyway. Too much rough stuff.” Later, bookies teamed up to buy racing news from a local radio station. One gambler says that radiostation employees can be bribed for eighty dollars a week to pass on w ire-service information.
Bettors can buy The Morning Digest, “Western Canada’s Turf Authority,” each morning at their news stands and pool halls. Bookmakers pick it up at the printing plant. It is published by The Winnipeg Sports and Turf Digest Ltd., owned by Triangle Publications in Philadelphia. A former Winnipegger, J. S. Perlman, is Triangle’s president. Each copy of his paper includes this statement: “All information herein is published in good faith for the purpose of supplying news and comment and is not intended to assist in, or intended for use in connection with, bookmaking, pool selling, betting or wagering upon any horse race or other race, fight, game or sport.”
SASKATOON FOK YEARS was the layoff centre for Prairie bookmakers, but Ralph Tate Cooper, the Big Book, died last year. The biggest Saskatchewan bookie now lives in Regina. In one fourmonth period a few years ago, when he didn't have so much business, he made a profit of twenty-four thousand dollars.
He gets his line, and The Baseball Weekly Schedule, from Chicago. Some race results come over the local radio, some from the newspaper. The Digest comes daily from Winnipeg and is sold at the Red Book Shop. Bets come in from Fillmore, Estevan and three front men in Moose Jaw. He makes his calls from a pay phone in a chartered club in Regina, and he may lay off in Las Vegas where he spends one month a year.
CALGARY is the biggest bookmaking centre in the west. Here, there are forty thousand Americans superimposed on a one-time cowtown that already had a large percentage of gamblers. They bet heavily on U. S. football, baseball and basketball. In one weekend at the peak of the football season several hundred thousand dollars will change hands.
Bookmaking for these bettors was organized almost twelve years ago. A onetime Calgary bookmaker, Clyde “Jack” Baxter, who had sought higher stakes in Seattle and Las Vegas, had come home broke. He was backed in a book to take sports bets and layoffs by Jack Begen, a man who made his money in a Calgary gaming club and then got in on the ground floor in oil. Baxter by 1958 had the biggest book in the far west. Vancouver gamblers would pool their money to bet with him. His odds were good and no amount was too large. “Baxter would bet that the sun wouldn’t rise,” says a friend.
Baxter had contacts: Harry Ship, the Montreal syndicate layoff, Jack Weaver, a syndicate bookmaker in Toronto, Walter Harvey Link, syndicate contact in Vancouver, Leo “Bookie” Schaeffer, head of a Terre Haute betting ring, and Gil Beckley, the continent’s No. 1 layoff man. It was rumored that The Combination had made overtures to Baxter but that neither he nor his colleagues cared to see the cartel move in.
In November of 1958 Baxter was murdered, presumably for the five thousand dollars he al-
most always carried; his mistress was convicted for complicity. Walter Harvey Link then came to town and let it he known that he would like to take over Baxter's book, not personally, but for a nominee, Bill Schrieber. Local bookies combined to block him and police pressured him out. “He moved in with an aluminum-siding company as a front,” a Calgary detective says. “We told him if he had any thought of making book here to forget it. We don’t want any Mafia connections in Calgary. They come in with lots of money and when they’re in they take over.”
Begen, then about sixty-four, took over Baxter's business. He bought a house and moved from a downtown hotel suite to the quiet, residential district of Rideau Park. He operates from behind the front of a novelty-distributing firm, Globe Manufacturers. As a bookmaker he is not considered first-class (“There’ll never be another book like Baxter,” mourns a gambler), but he probably handles bigger bets than anyone in the west and he splits the layoff from Calgary’s fifteen or sixteen other bookies with Arthur "Gordon” McDonald. McDonald, unlike Begen, is a gambler, well-off one month, hard-up the next. He has four, possibly six, outlets from which he handles at least half the horse action in Calgary. William “Boomer” Phillips, another local veteran, and his sharp young partner, “Hymie” Garshman, have five telephones downtown. The city police have been closing these outlets where possible; on their recommendation a half - dozen tobacco and news-stand licences have been canceled. But police cannot close the premises owned by the bookmakers.
Betting volume has declined with the slowdown in oil exploration. East-end bookies are taking fifty-cent bets. Sheetwriters are playing it safe by writing their bets on cigarette papers which they roll into little sausages to be swallowed if police raid them. Most of them lay off bets over twenty dollars, and even McDonald will lay off anything over two hundred with Begen. Begen lays off with McDonald, Vancouver and Winnipeg, sometimes Toronto and Montreal, but he channels his biggest overload to Las Vegas.
Calgary’s bookmakers run a co-operative enterprise. They share the cost of a horse handicapper who sets the early odds (before they are set by the pari-mutuel machines) and the cost of the scratch sheets mimeographed every night and sent every morning to the bookmakers’ downtown outlets, the hotels, Currie Barracks, etc. By labeling the sheets as sports bulletins and carrying the scores of some games the ring can avoid prosecution.
Scratches, results, other racing news and the line on sports events is passed to the other bookies by McDonald. Says a bookie in a nearby town, “J can phone in and get any information I want with the understanding that I lay off with him.” Begen gets the line from Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where he subscribes to Nation Wide Sports Publications. But usually McDonald works out a line and checks it with out-of-town bookies.
Results are sometimes obtained from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Spokane. The local races in Lethbridge come in on the radio. McDonald has had a man leave the track at Woodbine in Toronto and phone in. But most of the information comes from a woman (and sometimes a man) in the composing room of the local Albertan.
McDonald phones this information to bookies in Edmonton, which a few years back was a big betting town. In 1953, when six bookmakers
were arrested after months of work by forty-five policemen, a leading citizen told an officer, “You'll never put those boys in jail.”
They came before Mr. Justice W. G. Egbert on the minor offense of keeping a gaming house.
“We're pleading guilty, Your Honor,” their lawyer said.
“Just a minute,” said the judge. “I'd like to hear something about this case.”
He was told how the race-wire service came in from Calgary, how the bookies laved off with the Big Book in Saskatchewan. His eyes widened. “But that's conspiracy. Why weren't they charged with conspiracy?”
"The original charge was conspiracy,” said W. J. Shortreed, the crown prosecutor. “It was changed on the specific instruction of the attorney-general’s office.”
Mr. Justice W. G. Egbert shook his head. He sentenced each hookie to one thousand dollars’ fine and three months in jail. Upon appeal the jail term was dropped. This case remains the precedent by which Alberta bookies escape jail.
In 1956 the Edmonton city police had a shakedown under an ex-RCMP assistant commissioner, Melville F. E. Anthony. Today bookies risk arrest by using their primary equipment, the telephone. A by-law passed in January of 1963 permits police, on a warrant from Anthony, to tap phones, and wiretap evidence has been accepted in court. After four scot-free years, the leading bookmaker, Larry Malella, was convicted three times in 1962. He formerly carried a thousand dollars around in his pocket. Now he says, “I’m smart. I don't carry that much.” But he probably can't spare it; he is now believed to be relocating in Calgary. None of Edmonton’s ten bookies is well-off. Eddy Greenberg, who once had a fair-sized book, turned last, year to breaking and entering, an indication of how business has sagged. If the city morality squad had nothing more pressing to do they could probably close the bookmakers down.
THE COMBINATION’S Vancouver contact is Walter Harvey Link, a handsome persuasive six-footer, an enthusiastic idea man who, with the right breaks, could become a big man in the west. Link in 1961 had a ticker tape in a social club and was organizing sports betting in a big way. The following year he lost his contact in the city antigambling squad. That same year the B. C. Securities Commission cleaned house. Bookmakers who were also selling stocks suffered sorely. Jack Rama, a former Calgary bookie and gambler, gave up his brokerage firm, resigned as a miningcompany president, sold his house for one dollar and “other considerations” to Link, and departed for Honolulu. Before he left he was beaten up, and one night in a local supper club, two hoodlums came up to his table, made him hand over his wallet and took what they wanted from it.
With police bearing down in the city and the RCMP in the suburbs, the bookmakers are understandably nervous. In the football season more
than a hundred thousand dollars a week still funnels through the half-dozen books who take sports bets. Another half-dozen big ones and a couple of dozen small fry take horse action on every track in America. But big bets are hard to get down. One gambler last year lost a bet that he could put down one thousand dollars; he had to phone it to Seattle. “If a bookie gets more than a hundred skins on the nose,” says a city detective. “he gets in a flap and lays off. If a punter (a bettor) comes in with a bet written down the bookie won’t touch it. One bookie writes on a meat platter with a soft pencil ami a wet cloth ready beside him to rub it off. As soon as he gets thirty bets he booms them out. One sends it from here (downtown) to North Vancouver, then to Burnaby, then back downtown.” A small combine broken last year was taking bets in a music shop, a laundry and a grocery, and recording them in two private homes. People who entered the music shop to buy records at noon, when betting is at its peak, were turned away.
Vancouver bookies lay off on football as far east as Montreal, but most of their overload goes to Begen in Calgary. The line comes in from Calgary, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Daily Racing Form comes up from Seattle. Race results are obtained illegally from a newspaper in the suburbs. One bookie gets it, phones three others, and they phone three more. The last bookies often get it two hours late. This leaves them so open to past-posting — betting the winners before the bookie knows the race is over — that bookies are cutting off betting well before post time. Caution and unemployment in the area keep volume low. Says a city detective: “There isn't a bookie making better than good wages.”
In the summer of 1962 the continent’s No. 1 bookie, Gil Beckley, came up from Miami to Vancouver. He and his son spent more than a month visiting Link. They sojourned in Harrison Hot Springs together, are still in touch. Beckley also telephones Bill Schrieber of Calgary, an exemployee of Link, who may own a piece of Arthur McDonald’s book. Link keeps in touch with McDonald and Begen in Calgary, with Malella in Edmonton, with William Holub in Winnipeg, his associate in a carpet business, and with syndicate contacts in Montreal, Toronto and Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS may well be the continental clearing house for figuring the prosaic debits and credits of crime, the monthly accounts to be settled between the syndicates. The layoff from both eastern and western Canada seems to end here. Leading gamblers in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto maintain contact by telephone, mail anti personal visits with Las Vegas gamblers. And it was from the legal casinos of pre-Castro Havana and Las Vegas that crime-probe investigators noted frequent unexplained calls to the layoff men in Covington, Ky., anti in Biloxi, Miss. These, they believe, were “the checkup,” a check on the daily cash flow by the secret controllers of gambling.
It is a logical centre, a city whose citizens use casino gambling chips as cash, where the gamblers are the richest men and the biggest employers in town, backers of hospitals, charity drives, city and state politicians, a haven where the syndicates come together in silent partnership: Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh, Jersey, Brooklyn and New York, with their big and little branch operations in Canada. ★